Degenerative and spontaneous regenerative processes after spinal cord injury

Theo Hagg, Martin Oudega

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

272 Scopus citations


Spinal cord injury results in acute as well as progressive secondary destruction of local and distant nervous tissue through a number of degenerative mechanisms. Spinal cord injury also initiates a number of endogenous neuroprotective and regenerative responses. Understanding of these mechanisms might identify potential targets for treatments after spinal cord injury in humans. Here, we first discuss recent developments in our understanding of the immediate traumatic and subsequent secondary degeneration of local tissue and long projecting pathways in animal models. These include the inflammatory and vascular responses during the acute phase, as well as cell death, demyelination and scar formation in the subacute and chronic phases. Secondly, we discuss the spontaneous axonal regeneration of injured and plasticity of uninjured systems, and other repair-related responses in animals, including the upregulation of regeneration-associated genes in some neurons, increases in neurotrophic factors in the spinal cord and remyelination by oligodendrocyte precursors and invading Schwann cells. Lastly, we comment on the still limited understanding of the neuropathology in humans, which is largely similar to that in rodents. However, there also are potentially important differences, including the reduced glial scarring, inflammation and demyelination, the increased Schwannosis and the protracted Wallerian degeneration in humans. The validity of current rodent models for human spinal cord injury is also discussed. The emphasis of this review is on the literature from 2002 to early 2005.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)264-280
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2006


  • Acute degeneration
  • Axonal dieback
  • Regeneration
  • Scar formation
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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